Chapter 5 (draft 1)

“Dizzie. Kira. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” the masked man said, shaking their hands in turn. He wore a white mask that appeared neither male nor female. As he bowed his head, the masks’ blank stare appeared to smile.

“What’s with your voice?” Dizzie asked.

“A medical condition.”

“Like what?”

Kira nudged Dizzie.

“My face and throat were scarred when I was young.”

“That sucks,” Dizzie said, sucking on her lip ring absently. “Can we see the stage?”

“Are you going to prepare? The concert doesn’t begin for over an hour.”

“Can’t be too prepared,” Kira said. “I’d like to see where we’re putting our feet for the next half hour. Check the acoustics. That sort of thing.”

“You’re very task-oriented, Kira. My people tell me you’ve just mastered the mandolin. Congratulations. I’m sorry if you had to cancel any celebrations for this.”

Kira shook her head. “Nah, it’s fine. Playing an invitation-only concert like this is a lot better than having dinner with my parents. They’re not much for me having fun.”

Dizzie rolled her eyes. It seemed like she had to hear how amazing Kira was fifty times a day. “This venue is all open air, though. I don’t think the ‘invitation only’ thing is going to stick.”

“I’m counting on it.” Shadows crept in around the eyes of Aquino’s mask. The slight smile carved into the corners of the mouth looked sinister. “The world needs people who don’t follow the rules, don’t you think? The same with this concert.”

“So you’re just letting whoever march in.”

“Is that a problem?”

Dizzie shrugged. “It’s your production.” She ran up to the stage and hopped up and down on the boards. The men on security tried to pull her back down but Aquino stopped them.

“She’s tonight’s singer. If she wants to jump, let her jump.”

Dizzie stuck her tongue out at the men and continued to stretch and pace around. “Pretty sturdy.”

“Good.” Kira climbed up to join her. She sat at the center and began tuning her mandolin. Dizzie danced in circles and hummed in different keys.

“Beautiful,” Aquino croaked.

“What was that?” Dizzie asked.

“You’re beautiful.”

Dizzie frowned at him. “Who are you, anyway?”

“Just a fan.”

“No, really.”

“It’s safer you don’t know who I am.”

Dizzie cracked a rye grin. “What if I want to join up with the resistance? Would I get to know then?”

“No. But I’d be happy to… talk further after the concert is done.”

Kira furrowed her eyebrows. She made a small growling noise in her throat but held back any dissenting words.

“How about we go over the set, Diz?”

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